The Specialised Criminal Court has accepted the charges in the so-called bulletin-board tender, and set the start of the main proceeding for March 22.
It issued the decision despite the claims of the defence which pointed to several flaws on behalf of the criminal authorities and a request to stop the criminal prosecution or to return the changes to the prosecutor, the SITA newswire reported.
Currently, five people face charges, including two former construction ministers Marián Janušek and Igor Štefanov (both nominees of the Slovak National Party – SNS).
The case goes back to 2007 and is described as one of the biggest scandals of the first government of Robert Fico (2006-2010). It involved the announcement of a €120 million competition for supplying the then Construction Ministry with various legal and advertising services, co-financed by EU funds. The call for applicants was placed only on a bulletin board in a corridor at the ministry, then under the remit of SNS.
The tender was won by the only bidder in the tender, a consortium of companies including Zamedia and Avocat, both businesses with links to the then-SNS party leader Ján Slota.
The scandal led to sacking both Janušek and his successor, Štefanov.
Ex-ministers were silent
According to the defence lawyers, the investigation file contained mostly verified copies of documents, instead of originals, which raises some doubts. They also pointed to the insufficient expert opinions prepared during the preliminary proceeding.
The court, however, has not noticed any procedural mistakes that could be evaluated as serious, said the president of the senate, as reported by SITA.
Before the start of the proceeding, the two former ministers refused to answer any journalists’ questions. They were also very short in their answers before the court, the Sme daily wrote.
They both refused the agreement on guilt and punishment. If they did, their punishment would be one-third lower than its lowest tariff.
The prosecutor charged Marián J. with manipulating the public procurement and public auction as an accomplice, abusing the powers of a public official, and violating his duties when administering someone else’s property. The remaining four people, identified as Igor Š., Radoslav B., Tomáš L. and Zdenka K., were accused of manipulating the public procurement and public auction as accomplices.
If the court finds the two former ministers guilty, they will be the first sentenced ex-ministers in the modern history of Slovakia, Sme wrote.
2. Mar 2017 at 6:25 | Compiled by Spectator staff